September 24, 2010

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Amos is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

The book states that it was written during the reign of King Uzziah of Judah, or between 783 B.C. and 742 B.C.

There are two ways of looking at the conditions at the time. The two Hebrew kingdoms were at peace. Times were prosperous—at least for most of the people.

But many people were not so fortunate, and perhaps tranquility and ease had dulled in the people’s collective mind their sense of needing God. Along with this, apparently many people were lax in their religious observances.

So Amos rebuked them. He condemned their sluggishness in practicing their religion and their morally careless living. It was not necessarily a denunciation of utter vice, but rather of lukewarm attitudes and a pattern of living as if there were no tomorrow and no reckoning.

In the context of all the prophets, Amos saw in such circumstances clear signals that the society was weakening and, as it weakened, perils awaited the people.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy supplies the second reading.

Timothy was an early convert to Christianity. As his life unfolded, he became Paul’s disciple and a Christian leader in his own right, destined to be one of the major figures in the development of Christianity.

The epistle calls Timothy to be resolute, citing the example of Jesus during the Lord’s trial before Pontius Pilate.

Being distracted from such faithfulness was easy because the people were continually surrounded by the glory, power and excesses prevalent in the mighty Roman Empire.

Despite all the seeming power of Rome, the reading insists that God’s goodness and justice will endure, and that Jesus will come again in triumph and vindication.

St. Luke’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

It is a parable and rather straightforward in its message. The picture vividly presents a setting for the message of the parable.

A rich man is enjoying all the benefits of financial success and well-being. By contrast, Lazarus is desperately poor. He has nothing. He is hungry. He yearns to have the scraps of food that fell from the rich man’s table.

In time, Lazarus dies. Then the rich man dies. As the rich man reached the hereafter, he realized that now he was in great need whereas Lazarus was being held close to Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people.

Now the once rich man is desperate. He pleads with Abraham for just a drop of water. Then the once rich man implores Abraham to send Lazarus back to Earth to warn the rich man’s brothers that they also will be punished unless they turn to God and forsake their greed.

This end to the story is thought-provoking. Abraham replies that messengers already have been sent, namely Moses and the prophets, and that Moses and the prophets were ignored.

People can wreck their life on Earth and their eternal life. Their doom is their own choice. It is not God’s fault.


The readings, and especially the Scripture passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, are clear, teaching a lesson. It is more than a question of not being greedy or unjust in commercial dealings. Rather, Christians must judge earthly life by a standard that is not embraced very often.

At the time of Jesus, many people thought that earthly riches showed that God had blessed the rich, whereas poverty and want indicated that there had been a great sin somehow in the background of the sinner.

Jesus totally debunks this notion. When we end our earthly lives, riches will mean nothing.

The Christian standard is to put everything secondary, or even irrelevant, in judging life. Only the things of God are worth living or dying for.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus is much more than merely a parable about a person who succeeds in the world and a person who struggles to find enough food to survive each day. †

Local site Links: